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Food labels will tell you how much exercise to dispose of food

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Food labels will tell you how much exercise to dispose of food

Scientists are experimenting with a labeling system that says how much exercise it takes to burn those calories. Will it work?

Eugenio Spagnuolo

– Milano

Not just macro-nutrients, ingredients and additives. According to some British scientists food labels should also indicate the amount of exercise needed to burn calories of that particular food. A psychological trick that would keep us away from particularly caloric foods. But is it really so?

Food labels with the caloric equivalent of physical activity

Researchers at Loughborough University believe that reading on the label of a food that takes moderate or mild exercise to get rid of it is easier to understand and could help consumers avoid high-calorie foods. The caloric equivalent of physical activity (PACE), which reveals how much movement it takes to burn the calories of a particular food, is a system already used by many diet apps. But for food labels it would be a novelty, which, however, does not necessarily conquer the public. At least in the UK where a series of exploratory interviews were conducted.

Food labels with the caloric equivalent of physical activity: are they useful?

Although many consumers believe that a label sporty would help them avoid high-calorie foods, in fact, the majority of respondents replied that they prefer to continue to stick to Nutri-Score traffic light labels, already adopted by 7 European countries and the United Kingdom. An incorrect choice according to the researchers. “Nutrition labels help people make food choices and traffic light labeling is the UK standard,” says study co-author Amanda Daley, a lecturer at Loughborough University. “But the problem is that many people don’t understand the real meaning of kilocalories or the grams of fat displayed on food labels and often underestimate the number of calories when the label is not provided. “

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Food labels with the caloric equivalent of physical activity: the study

The researchers surveyed 2,668 people to compare their views on traffic light labels versus PACE labeling. Participants were asked which of the two they preferred, which they found easier to understand and which was the most engaging. Result: the majority of respondents admitted to prefer the traffic light system with 43% in favor and only 33% willing to PACE, despite more than half of the respondents finding it easier to understand. In return, 49% admitted that the PACE label would be more likely to attract their attention (compared to 31% of those who preferred traffic lights).

The physically active respondents found the most appealing “sports” label: those who exercised more than 3 times a week admitted that a label explaining how much exercise to do to dispose of a food would be more effective. Conversely, less active people and older participants admitted to prefer old-fashioned labeling. The majority however, she agreed that the PACE label should be placed mainly on foods such as snacks and confectionery as opposed to everyday food products such as bread, pasta, fruit and vegetables.

Finally, many respondents admitted that they would look favorably on foods from fast food chains, take-out menus and foods found in vending machines because they are usually the richest in calories. Said, done: The Loughborough University team is planning to test the first labels with the caloric equivalent of physical activity in canteens and on the food distributed by the vending machine. “Our study highlights that PACE labeling is useful for strengthening current approaches to food labeling,” the authors write. “The next steps will consist in verifying whether PACE labeling can reduce the purchase of high-calorie foods and beverages in different food contexts such as restaurants, vending machines, cafes and pubs.”

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